by guest author Emma Fernbloom, former owner of The Dunedin Yoga Studio
It wasn’t that long ago I was standing in front of a room full of people and assuring them that if they practice yoga regularly, not only would all of their health problems disappear but they would be successfully avoiding old age, loss of vitality and disease.
I was glowing with my own certainty that I had found the keys to a healthy fulfilled life.
I was strong, flexible and graceful. I was meditating every day and having beautiful expansive experiences. I had touched the divine in myself.
Certain aspects of my life seemed to be clearing up – my nine year long relationship seemed to resolve itself into a clean breakup with love and non-attachment. The very air around me vibrated with my ringing inner joy and freedom.
Then, unexpectedly, at the peak of my joy, I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease.
My immune system began attacking my body and I very quickly became physically incapable of practicing yoga asana. I was forced to sell my Yoga Studio.
From being able to gracefully manipulate my body into any shape I liked, I suddenly found it hard to walk, to open doors or jars and my every move became painful. My whole life seemed to screech to a halt.
And in the death of that life, another kind of journey began: The journey of finally accepting, recognising and becoming my pain.
It took me a while to realise it, but this disease was a great gift, as it made becoming my pain easy. Pain was the new interface through which my body encountered the world.
I learned many things on this pain journey.
I learned that my body environment was acidic, that I could no longer tolerate dairy, eggs, gluten, nuts or sugar, that drinking lots of alkaline water helped, that leafy greens are the most nourishing and healing things I could put into my body, that minerals are vital. I learned that I literally am what I eat.
I learned what it was like to be treated as if something was wrong with my soul, because my body was manifesting illness. I was surprised at how many healers still relate to disease with fear and judgement and how rare genuine compassion is.
I learned compassion.
I also learned self-responsibility. I was offered pills, but chose the pain instead. It was a great act of courage – not just because of the pain itself, but because I had to step outside of the values of my culture and do something different.
Ours is a culture that values relentless busyness at the expense of the body and constantly offers up new ways to mask hurt and keep on keeping on.
My courage came from letting myself come to a halt, and not putting a time-limit on my healing. I was no longer a ‘pain-avoider’ and I was learning to nurture my pain, rather than ‘kill’ it. This was an uncomfortable time for people that cared for me and there was a lot of pressure to follow ‘expert’ advice.
I learned that if I am tired, I need to rest; and the world – my inner and the outer world – did not come to a halt due to my inaction.
I learned that certainty is an illusion. There is no system in the world – be it yoga or raw food or orthodox medicine – that can give you certainty.
I learned that there was a great chaos in me yearning to be free of the prison of certainty, and she was fairly enraged at centuries of repression.
I also learned that there was a great need in me for certainty, a need to know life is not all for nothing. (Certainty is a great seller…)
I learned that same NoThing tugs at all our heels, reminding us in lonely moments that a time will come when it can’t be avoided any longer.
Just a bit longer, I often hear myself plead with the great impatience inside me to be done with this mad game. Just one more love, sunset, baby…
I learned that if I am to heal, I must accept all the parts of myself I’d tried to discard, labelling them at various times as unnecessary or conflict-creating or irritating to others.
Thank goodness those parts didn’t flee, but merely buried themselves in my body, with raised eyebrows, until I was done experimenting with games like ‘only making others happy’ or ‘it’s too painful to fight for myself’ or the many variations of ‘I wish I was like you…’
I also learned that everything I’ve learned could be swept away in an instant and become meaningless. Meaning is momentary and the precious jewel of satisfaction it gives me will dissolve.
Living in the memory of meaning builds Certainty Prisons.
I’d like to thank my body – this mysterious manifestation of heaven and earth rolled into one.
Incredible Body: Thank you for your impermanence, for consistently healing, for your unconditional love for my soul and my soul’s journey. I’m sorry I ever accused you of being against me – your perspective is much wider than my ordinary consciousness notices.
I’d like to publicly acknowledge the powerful teacher that Illness is and to fully accept the presence of Illness in my temporary and often illusory world.
Thank you, Illness, for showing me that great love is hiding inside each of my fears. Thank you for showing me that fighting my body is hurting myself. Thank you for teaching me true acceptance.
I’d like to acknowledge the Earth – the big body my body is made of – and the disease she is experiencing as our human consciousness is learning to deal with pain and confusion.
I’d like to acknowledge the constant renewal that is her and our physical nature, that gives us the ability to push deeper into our explorations of what and who we are.
And I’d like to acknowledge you.
You are doing your best.
You are doing just fine.
I release my need for you to be anything than what you are.
I’m glad you’re here too.
Emma lives with her husband and son at Tui, an intentional community just outside of Takaka.